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Pharmako/Thanatos Aug. 1 – Aug. 24

Journal notes for How I Died
Aug. 1; five doses

Too much history for me to speak what I see

nis nū cwicra nān
Þe ic him mōdsefan
mīnne durre
sweotule āsecgan

None now	still quick
left to share	my deepest heart

So many fallen   / death of kings
the poets,   the painters,
all my teachers
		gone now
and myself
		hardly started

Here: a tearful night of recriminations.

Aug. 4 Friday
Muggy today. Trying to let it go.
“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.”

Aug. 5 Saturday
Read with Gary Snyder and Jason Wirth at the Open Book to launch Jason’s book on Dōgen. About a three hour commitment and I did fine.

     Water spirit feelin
     Springin’ round my head,
     Makes me feel glad
     That I’m not dead.
          --Jim Pepper

Aug. 6, Sunday
Another shame attack. This one is not even shameful.
I was working in Calistoga, bottling my root beer, and was in the bar beneath the hotel where I stayed. There was a band, or I think there was, and I asked a really cute Chicana girl to dance. And we did. I was ok I guess, if perhaps expressive. When the next song started her boyfriend danced with her. Totally out-classed me with understatement.

So, this memory, with its accompanying wince and blush, arose because I was reading Patrick O’Brien and there was a scene where the sailors danced all night with the natives on an island in the Pacific, and after reading that I’d had some general reflections on dancing as a traditional social mixing, like a DMZ, and how Wendell Berry noted the importance of square dancing as a way to touch people other than one’s spouse, and then I jumped to that dance scene in West Side Story, and all of a sudden it’s over forty years and I’m sucking wind in Calistoga.

Later in the day I caught another one:
I was book-scouting. I had a box of low grade hardbacks that no one wanted, and stopped at a used book store—I can’t remember where exactly—but north of the Bay Area. The guy didn’t want them, even in trade. I begged and finally he gave me paperback trade—but said that I couldn’t use it on art books. He knew exactly what I was doing. I went to the mystery section and he had half a dozen nearly new Raymond Chandlers. I took them all.

The book store probably failed.
Was that shameful, or was I just being “smart.”

Yeah, right.

August 7, Monday
morphine dripper at 10/ oxy pill at 11:15; big one at 5.

Mild physical nausea, seamlessly wedded to a spiritual malaise. And an extraordinary sadness. Some is family pain. Some is the political example being set by Trunp and his Republican base: greed and lies become the new morality. Integrity is for “suckers.”

& then there is me. Just wanting to blindfold my eyes and sleep and sleep.

If I were drinking ayahuasca I’d call for the vomit bowel with deep gratitude and await the purge and then the blessing of the stars.

Reading the news that Frederic Brow story—The Weapon”—from the fifties came up: “Only a madman would give a loaded revolver to an idiot.”

8 August

Rather Fight than Switch

That was a cigarette ad from the early sixties; a series of actors with black eyes sticking to their Tareytons. In a psychedelic vision I applied the phrase to America—that America was the country that would rather fight than switch–that we would never follow the European lead. We’d be the last country on earth to adopt universal health care, or universal free education, or any other liberal policy. I thought that during the Nixon years, and it’s still true.

That was the theme of my book on prisons. And that particularly nasty American vindictiveness.
It’s a legacy of slavery and the Civil War. There is a deep-seated meanness in the American spirit. Those are the people who cheer for Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Think about it: who is the meanest, baddest guy? The chain-gang guard, or the plantation field boss.

And there are a few really nasty people who know better, or should, and moved by motives ideological or in class-interest go to great lengths to hide that the real goal of “Free Market” is free labor, backed up by the government to protect them from strikers, labor unions, leftist governments in Latin America, or popular direct action.

So that corporations can skip taxes, or declare bankruptcy, but people can’t. That corporations can sue governments, but groups of people can’t sue either.

They fly the banner of “Free Market,” but that is the last thing they want. They want monopoly, and government protection, and government bail-outs, and a permanent under-class to whom they can pay poverty wages and government subsidies.

August 9 Wednesday

Why I don’t Facebook

I did try it. Back when Facebook was still new. Or, let’s say, new-ish.
I think I lied about my age, and maybe my gender, but I used my real name. That made me nervous. What was I getting into?

I’d read somewhere that anything one posts is there “forever.” That made me nervous also. And then there were a lot of questions about personal stuff. I kept thinking they should have a Miranda warning: “Anything you say may be used against you.”

I’d spent too many years underground, living like a spy.

But with heroic perseverance I kept going. Maybe it is some kind of social phobia, but I had sweat on my forehead. What was I going to do if I had to choose “Like” or “Don’t like” in a public way? I was going to need tranquillizers.

When I finally got my account set up, it was worse than I thought. There it was, right along with “Start here”:

     “Dale, you have zero friends.”


I never went back. And I’m sure it’s just as well. I’ve read a number of studies showing strong correlations between social media use and loneliness. And between social media use and depression. And between social media use and FOMO, “fear of missing out.” I know that’s what would have happened to me.:

     Dale, you have zero friends.

[You’re supposed to laugh.]

Besides, Zuckerberg sold out to the Russians.

Aug. 10

Mostly at the barn, in the office. I’m not sure I got anything actually done, except that I did format and print out my “to do” list.

Is It Inevitable that Mankind Destroy Itself?

And if it were only a matter of species suicide, other than the soft weeping of a few angels, breezes would still sing over our bones.

But, considering our record, as a species, it’s likely we’d take most of the large mammals down with us, in a massive extinction event.

And sitting there, on a mountain of bones, is a spoiled child, saying “Ha-ha, I win, I win.”

Pig, rooster, snake:
	eternal wheel.
Or nearly so.

August 11

Woke up with severe vertigo. Barely made it to the bathroom, hanging onto the walls and crawling.

I stumbled back to bed and put a pillow over my face. I just wanted to go back to sleep. This was too much. The pain meds were gone, the room was spinning: it was not a world I wanted to be a part of.

And somehow, blessedly, I did sleep. When I woke up again, an hour later, Laura helped me with the Epley maneuver. Which helped.

Too scary. Please don’t let it end like that.

August 12

Saturday night Jeremy Bigalke and Soraya and their two boys arrived.

Some people are perfect guests. They see the right things and they have fun with the right things. Like swimming in the pond. Like Magnus listening raptly as I made up ridiculous stories. Like enjoying simple food. Like watching the Perseids and raving about the long slow bright tails. About seeing the spotted fawns, and the young poults with the mama turkey.

Aug. 13, Sunday

Kat Harrison visited! Lovely, if short. She’d never been here to Mantis Hill.

Then in the evening Laura and I drove down to the Stanyan Park in San Francisco. So we’d be there for all the medical appointments at UCSF beginning Monday morning: the psych counselor, blood draws, picking up some tincture at the cannabis store; Meeting Drs, Robin Kate Kelley and Carling Jade Ursem.

Oh yes, and then the chemo infusion at 6pm, and then a very long and painful drive home. I managed to drive one leg, from Vacaville to Olivehurst. I had to use a bathroom in the worst way before we got to Marysville. It was clean. Since I wasn’t buying anything I gave the Indian man running the convenience store a couple of dollars as a tip, told him “Restroom was clean. Thank you.”

Confused him at first. But I could see it was going to warm his whole shift.

August 15

Met with Jen in the afternoon. The illustrations for Jeremy and the Mantis are coming along great. This book could win a prize.


August 15

The Worst and the Best Things about What Governments Do–

Worst: having an Army.

Best: having a Post Office.

Shame Attacks #666

How did this one come up? What was the chain of associations? Laura was driving us to town. Something about love, as in being in. Or love as a “thing,” like a penny in one’s pocket, or a penny lost, all depending on a word, “do you?” Or “don’t you?” Or, even more sublime, unspoken.

O Great Divine Madness, you make me laugh, sing, or weep.

I was in second grade, seven or eight years old, in my room which I shared with my younger brother. I had the class picture out, 8 ½ by 11, or maybe 9 by 12, with a tiny one inch picture of every kid in the class. I was getting ready to kiss the picture of my girlfriend. Her name was Joan.

I remember her as being nice, but other than being secretly “in love” with her, there was no special relationship between us. Looking at her picture I could see it was smudged from other times I had kissed it. I’d tried to rub it, but that only made it worse. I kissed her anyway.

Just then my younger brother walked in. I put the picture down as quickly as I could, but I knew I was caught and I’m sure I was blushing deeply.

“Did you see?” I asked.

“Yes.” he said.

I was in second grade. Which sets a new shame attack date record.

Memories, this one not a shame attack. Maybe two and a half or three and a half years old is too young to have shame. That’s an interesting point worth returning to: when do we learn shame? Is it a cross-cultural universal? (Freud had something to say on this issue.)

(Present day psychologists, of the therapeutic variety, seem to view shame as a wholly negative emotion, as something to get free of… so that we can return to a shameless infantile narcissism?)

At the Balboa house, where I lived until I was seven, I shared a bedroom of the garage with my older brother. It was a narrow longish room, and our beds were on opposite sides of the narrow part of the room. There was a window above some built-in bookshelves between us. Everything in the room was white as best I can remember. I think it had been an add-on room and the walls were something like sheetrock with thin batten boards, all painted white.

When it was dark, after we’d been put to bed and were supposed to be going to sleep, highly mysterious patterns of light would sometimes move eerily across the walls. The light was in large blocks, squarish or rhombic, of several textures. The blocks of light were always in motion. Sometimes one block of light would seem to split into two blocks and move in opposite directions, overlapping, wrapping around a corner, or disappearing into the ceiling.

And while I can remember the movement of light and shadow on the walls, somewhat, the primary memory is my sense of wonderment. That part is so strong I can almost step into it. Where did the light come from? Why did it silently move across the wall and the ceiling?

My brother and I would talk about the lights. The light patches were most like sunlight that comes through a window and makes vaguely trapezoidal patches on the rug. At some point we connected them to car headlights moving somewhere down the peninsula, but this hypothesis, which I didn’t quite accent at first, did not wholly dispel the feeling of mystery.

The Balboa peninsula was mostly open space in the 1950—vacant lots outnumbered houses. We had no neighbors on the south side—there were three or four vacant lots n a row, so headlights from several blocks away could easily come in the window. And lacy curtains on the window further disguised the light. There was a shade on the window but in those days we never pulled it down.

We tried to connect the light moving on the walls and the cars. Once in a while, if the surf wasn’t too loud, we could hear a car out on Ocean Boulevard or some other street, and if we did, it would have been after we had seen the moving lights. That was what made a cause and effect relationship so difficult to establish.

But mostly what I remember, the most poignant part, was that the presence of mysterious phenomena, and the sense of wonder, was the norm, not the exception. Like all the lint swirling in the sunlight that came through the high window above the front door in the morning—“Like stars,” I’d think.

Today, watching my old cat come across some new phenomenon of shape, material, or shadow—something carelessly dropped onto the floor or onto a stair—helps me to connect with that Mind of Wonder. There is a process she goes through: first staring, then maybe sniffing, and then a gentle bat with a paw. Then the new phenomenon is cataloged, accepted into the Realm of All That is Mysterious That I Live With Everyday.

August 18
Joanna and Aurora here.
Louis Blue Cloud comes by to bid on the deck.
Ruth called: said she likes reading the “How I Died” sections. And the political rants also.
One really only needs one person to write to.
And that person could be dead.
Or not yet born.

The Legacy of Slavery
Nothing specific about the Germans; people used to say that: the “German Character” needed a strong leader.
Gurdjieff said that the Germans were the way they are because of the frustration in having to wait until the end of the sentence to find out what the person was talking about.

But on the level of individual psychology, we might find something. George Lakoff sees a link to authoritarian fathers.
[enough lashes on that bloodied back—move on]
Still and all.

Prisons, there’s a legacy.

Gut reactions: “Getting Away with it” by Sam Waterston
& I’d forgotten how Steve Bannon (now out of the White House and back to Breitbart)
was involved with BioSphere II

& the importance of gut reactions:

August 19

Joanna and Aurora left. Fun to be around, and motherhood has matured Joanna in amazing ways.

She did say (only a slight exaggeration) “It’s been two years without a full night’s sleep.”

Well, let’s see: mother and child in the same bed; and Papa on the couch.

That happened in the sixties also, but there it was mostly single mothers. (It always added a certain awkwardness if one were to stay over.)

Along with this, bottle feeding, even as adjunct to breast feeding, seems unfashionable. “The child might experience ‘nipple confusion’.”

This doesn’t leave the dad a lot to do.

And everything first for the baby.

Better that the passion that engendered the child have some priority. Children respect that. That they are not the center of the universe all the time. Which just frustrates them.

but, as they say, styles changes.


Or something like that. A bumper sticker from the eighties.

My sense of humor is perverse enough that I can give a chuckle to the wit of the bumper sticker. It’s Good Ole Boy stuff, and it makes me think of Orwell’s essay on the working class humor greeting cards. Or their American cousins: “This house insured by Smith & Wesson.”

But. Except. There is an underlying resentment that is not at all funny.
And also, evident daily in the Trump presidency & the remarks of his die-hard supporters—his core supporters, I mean. That is, not those who support him for business reasons—“get the EPA off my back and restore my right to poison the river,” or “give me a tax break.”– who want to be able to endanger workers and let “the market” solve the problem rather than the government. Or who want a freer hand to make a fast buck on shady trading on Wall Street.

Or those who think Trump will help some pet cause—give Christian churches political and legal power to legislate some particular moral code: anti-homosexuality, anti-abortion, pro-Christian prayers in public schools, etc. And there is always racism: a hundred years as a wedge between working classes and their shared economic interests and still going strong. Blame it on the immigrants. Let’s just lie shamelessly and claim that Barack Obama is a Muslim born in Africa—that was Trump’s entry into politics.

(And how the gut-level racists must have gritted their teeth for every day of the eight years that Barack Obama was President!)

But beyond these obvious sources of support that would be either pro-government or anti-government, depending on the transient inclinations of the Leader, there is a class of Trump supporters for whom he can do no wrong.

These are his loyal supporters who love watching him beat up on honor students, and love to watch him reward bullies, and want him to do it more. These people have been shamed. They’ve been “dissed” by those with hipper and more cosmopolitan ideas. For this group, Trump’s politics are mainly inconsequential.

One Trump supporter complained about how he was “put down” for his beliefs in High School!

     (Poor Baby.)

So now they get their come-uppance.

Not Much PC Here

Oh dear. I’ve laughed at some pretty vile racist and ethnic jokes. I guess that makes me bad and lacking. And as a white man I share whatever collective guilt for what my white ancestors did. My black ancestors also, though no one talks about that. What a terrible can of worms. And then rewards are offered for whichever identity group is the best organized to be professional victims and have a seat at the top table, so that they can get their share of whatever obscure group of peasants is currently being enslaved.

Sorry. But it’s often true.

I don’t go around calling black people niggers, but I do resent that I am somehow castigated for having the word in my vocabulary. Racism is ugly, black or white. Period.


It used to be that as long as one did not try to violate a person’s rights or opportunities because of their race, you could still have private feelings and could privately laugh at vile racist, sexist, feminist, Polak, or other ethnic jokes. I think that’s all we should ask for. It’s a slow process, and every backlash sets us back decades.

     If my thought dreams could be seen,
     They’d put my head in a guillotine also.

And speaking of dreams, you self-righteous finger-pointing hypocrites, you stand accused, tried, and found guilty.

	(Some say we were born in sin.)

My kid beat up your honor student kid. Ha ha. While every year our technological society more and more devalues any kind of work or ability except that which makes money—lots of money.

We all have some collective guilt.
We have created an economic system where the heros are those who can “screw the other guy.” Those who can “get away with it.” And who can laugh at the suckers “all the way to the bank.”

We value those who are clever and fast talking and good at making shady deals.

Is that really work at all?

“There’s no law against it.”

Actually, lots of times there are laws, and even if not, that doesn’t make the work “honest.”

We all share the guilt here. We killed God and overturned ”morality.” because we deconstructed right and wrong and found nothing left that was “fundamental.”

In this sense Donald Trump is our first “postmodern” president.
Trump is the perfect corporate capitalist: interested only in his personal profit.

Buckminster Fuller thought that with the advent of wireless electronic technology, the power of the sea kings, the “Great Pirates,” would be broken. Because they couldn’t understand what was happening just by looking at it. And thus freed from their slavery to commercial interests, engineers would institute a rule of the wise.

     Lots of engineers in the Chinese bureaucracy. 

Instead, more and more, the only talent that is regularly rewarded is an above-average IQ: just enough smarts to be able to navigate computer menus, and a predatory instinct to steal the lunch money of the duller-witted.

Many kinds of “strength” that were once recognized as valuable—from physical strength, to handling animals, to an honest character, to benevolence, to courage, to neighborliness, and to simple if dim-witted integrity, have been devalued.

Labor is not honored. Nor, always with a few obvious exceptions, is manual skill.

“Strength” is only valuable if it makes money. A shameless quick deal that gets you something that was someone else’s is called “being smart.”

“They should work and be exploited. They’re not as smart as I am.”

I heard a man say: “You want to hear a really scary fact: half of the population has an I.Q. below 100.”

Actually, they aren’t the ones causing the problems. The opposite is more true.

Buddhism traces the sufferings of the world to the klesha, or “poisons.”
Greed, malevolence, and confusion.

Mere IQ points don’t bring wisdom. Or character.

20 August
Cleaning up. Need to finish list of web site projects. Need to do SOMETHING on my to-do list.

Where do they keep all that saved time?

21 August Monday
Eclipse of the Sun.

I have a dope addict mouse in the herb kitchen.

I’m losing weight. Need >2200 KCals. Maybe start drinking protein shakes,
like old times,
kicking drugs and trying to stay alive.

22 August Tuesday

Trump as the ultimate red herring—
	flashing his moons
while his cronies and his family
	loot the treasurey.

The opiod crisis: a self-study

Verlag Peter Engstler has published Geistertanz (“Ghost Dance”), a collection of twenty of my poems in English and German, in an elegantly designed chapbook.

Aug. 24
Spent yesterday in the herb kitchen, brewing up my meds. Some of this glassware I’ve moved around with me for sixty years. I can’t tell you how satisfying it was to use my 1,000 ml. graduate, one of the more beautiful pieces of laboratory glassware ever blown. And how deeply satisfying to my have fine pipettes, my 5 ml. and 10 ml. cylinders, and all the beakers and flasks I could ever want. And to get to use them.

Two of my most-used pieces of apparatus, a large clear hydrometer jar, and the alcohol hydrometer to go with it, I found in my grandmother’s garage. I could never have bought that kind of glassware. My grandfather, whom I never met, had been a lawyer and had ended up with stuff like that being stored in his garage.

I lusted for low form Pyrex beakers, and not just semi-micro sizes—I wanted some big ones. Ditto Erlenmeyer flasks. I would spend hours in high school when I should have been doing homework paging through the VWR glassware catalog, checking off all the stuff I wanted.

I started an organic root beer business in the early seventies just so I had enough reason to buy a whole selection of filter flasks, and highly accurate measuring pipettes.

It was over twenty years after that, when I had started researching and writing Pharmako/Poeia, that I discovered the mother of all laboratory supply houses: “CFRI.”

Chemicals for Research and Industry, with their green dragon sign in front of several large warehouses in the flatlands of Oakland, was a dream come true. CFRI made a specialty of buying up seized labs at government auctions and reselling them at deep discounts. Every size and shape of obscure glassware could be found. One could spend a day wandering the aisles and still not see everything.

They also sold chemicals: highly useful chemicals that were otherwise a big hassle to obtain. The great drug chemist Alexander Shulgin once quipped that they should at least remove the evidence stickers before they put stuff back on the shelf.

The DEA hated them. DEA agents would park outside on the street and hassle customers leaving the store, asking for IDs, getting names, asking questions. CFRI went to court and got a restraining order.

After that they were a marked company. The Government hassled them in every way they could, constantly. Bureaucratic hassles. Tax hassles. EPA hassles. CFRI fought on for several more years, but finally had to crumble.

I’ve got a CFRI sweatshirt.

next: August 25. The Divine Spark / The Mexican family at that restaurant in Elko.

One comment

  1. Margot Boyer writes:

    Reading every word. Back on Vashon (sunny, cool) after 17 days in the UK. Thinking of writing you a mash note about how much I love the Pharmako books. Endlessly re-readable, and I’m not really a druggy, good to read in the bath, wildly quotable.

    October 31st, 2017 at 12:22 pm

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